The Lawrence Gallery Celebrates a Decade of Success!

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September 21, 2020

In 2010, thanks to an industrious group of residents, SVWC’s Art Committee and The Lawrence Gallery came to be. The purpose of the SVWC Art Committee is: to provide a vehicle for the appreciation of artworks created by artists both within the SVWC community and beyond. Our gallery was named after William H. Lawrence Jr.’s family, who donated the land for SVWC. On Thursday, September 23, 2010, the inaugural exhibit in Lawrence Gallery opened with an informal champagne reception. Exhibitors included residents and staff members, and the show was coordinated by the Art Committee. Amazingly, six of those participating artists are still producing and displaying their artwork as recently as the November 2019 exhibit.

Initially, the Art Committee included five residents, Ron Jackson, June Hess, George Burgess, Raymond Wrenn, and Wil Pieper. When asked about her husband’s involvement on the Art Committee, Peggy Jackson replied that “he loved every minute of it.” George Burgess remembers that the Committee began by meeting in artist Fred Zimmer’s apartment to brainstorm about starting an art gallery.

A staff social worker found the perfect hanging system for the gallery, and a lighting system was installed. Burgess says that his contribution revolved around making sure that paintings were adequately wired for hanging, and that trips between the woodshop and the gallery were frequent. His height was a real benefit when it came to installing the artwork. He served on the Committee for six years and says it was always a lot of fun.

Yvonne Teske joined the committee in 2012, and recalls, “The Committee under Administrator, Cathy Farmer, included staff and resident members, right from the start, Marketing, Administration, Technology, and Maintenance. This coordinated and creative Committee led to successful exhibits, including opening evening receptions with delicious food, PowerPoint displays about the artists and their works, unique displays in the glass cases, press coverage, invitations to SVWC future residents, etc.”

Teske continued, “There were two early classes taught on campus, by Leah Brumback and Gale Bowman-Harlow. I was in Gale’s class before I moved to SVWC in 2009. Both instructors had a mix of residents and community members, and some class members eventually became SVWC residents. Artists who sold their works during the exhibits were asked to contribute 25% of their sales to the Fellowship Fund, which enables residents to continue to live at SVWC after their finances have been depleted. (To date, no artists have refused.) Experienced exhibitors have said that most galleries require a higher ‘fee’ to exhibit to help finance the gallery."

According to Art Committee Member June Hess, “The Lawrence Gallery happened, at least in part, because there was already a healthy spirit of appreciation for good art thriving at SVWC. 1) Gifts of valuable originals by local artists had been proudly displayed from SVWC's earliest days. 2) Leah Brumback (a local artist and non-resident) led a weekly art class for residents and non-residents in the activities room. 3) Ron Jackson (Peggy's spouse) had an "artist's corner" in the woodshop, and arranged compacted "tuition" weekends of art by bringing in artists to teach specific art skills. 4) Two professional artists and residents, Fred Zimmer and Wil Pieper, had set up studios in their Winchester Hall apartments. 5) Gale Bowman-Harlow, co-owner and operator of Opus Oaks Art Campus in Berryville, held a weekly class for residents and non-residents in the activities room. All these leaders and their students were the first exhibitors in Lawrence Gallery. Still, I believe it is Gale's unceasingly kind and creative drive which we need to honor, for she is at it still - with all the same dedication and enthusiasm that encouraged us in Lawrence Gallery's early days”.

June says, “Gale never ceases to nurture opportunity and interest. The results of this are everywhere in the building. Her energy turned a dismal, l-o-n-g section of construction drywall into a living mural, now captured for posterity by a framed photo. An SVWC campus photo became a large, 3-D, clay mosaic hanging. The Global Wall of Healing created an early pandemic outlet, an expression of residents’ hopes and insecurities. These miniature art pieces were displayed all over the building. We are most fortunate Gale Bowman-Harlow is at SVWC!! Very fortunate, indeed”!

Raymond Wren is the only original member still serving on the Art Committee. At 102, he shows up for monthly meetings, helps with labeling during the installations, and attends the receptions. Additionally, Raymond often assists in naming the shows when artists cannot come up with a clever title. His contributions have been genuinely appreciated, and his presence is always a joy.

Wil Pieper has exhibited three times in ten years - with each show more incredible than the last. Now 100, Pieper says that after he moved to SVWC and word got out that he had a studio in his apartment, he was asked about creating the Chapel windows. The Chapel doors were completed first, to honor his beloved wife, Lois. The windows proved to be challenging, so Wil provided the inspirational design and had assistance with fabrication and installation. Regarding the inaugural exhibit, Wil said, "I think the show is wonderful. It’s very, very interesting. I had no idea we had this much talent here in the community.” As for his painting back then, Pieper claimed, “It’s strictly a hobby...something I do on weekends.”

The truth is that Wil Pieper has a tremendous creative gift, and has been extremely generous in sharing that gift, as evidenced all over our campus. In addition to the Chapel, his colorful stained glass is in the art studio's turret, on the aerobics studio's back wall, and in the marketing department’s entryway, all to be treasured for many years to come.

Since its inception, the Art Committee has hosted 59 exhibits. Artists have contributed $23,497 to the SVWC Fellowship Fund in ten years. Many residents have served on the Art Committee during that time - each lending a hand where they felt comfortable. “It is truly a group effort,” says Kitty Zuckerman, who has been involved since joining SVWC seven years ago. "We have had such a wide variety of mediums - work created by fascinating and talented artisans. New friends are made, and everyone learns a great deal along the way. We’ve been told that our Friday evening Artist Receptions make for the perfect date night. Where there once was a need to solicit artists, the Committee now has a list of potential exhibitors, and receives calls from artists wishing to display in Lawrence Gallery.”

Many residents have shown their works over the years, and there is no question that there is a tremendous artistic spirit on SVWC’s campus. Novices have taken up creative pursuits and found incredible pleasure in doing so.

Due to COVID 19, the Committee was forced to rearrange the 2020 schedule. The next exhibit was to feature fabulous oils by an artist living in France. The Committee hopes to reschedule him for 2021. Instead, we will be displaying drawings by residents who have participated in online classes since the Pandemic forced them to stick close to home. At this point, it remains to be seen when the Gallery will be able to welcome outside guests again. One thing is for sure, the audience is out there, and ten years of hard work has paid off exceptionally well! For further information, contact Kitty Zuckerman, Marketing Communications Specialist, and Art Committee Staff Liaison, at 540-665-5915.

Our Facebook page features a photo album with a sampling of the outstanding artwork that has been in the Gallery over the ten year period.